I planted culantro

I cannot distinguish the seeds of carrots from those of lettuce. I can barely tell coriander from parsely when they grow. But that day I ended up planting vagetables, including culantro, a plant I have never heard about before.

Segundo, one of the Peruvians from the intercambio, took us to visit his grandmother and his cousin at the countryside. The house that belongs to his family stands in the middle of the land, there is no road leading directly to it. There is no car standing next to it, no tractor. Everything is done by hand, eventually with mules or horses. The machines are anyway almost useless in the Andes, where the fields so often climb the slopes of the mountains. Many of the houses are still built in a tranditional way – out of adobe, a mixture of sand, water and straw. (Certain resources might be missing here, but the dirt is plentiful!)

The main plant cultivated in the region is patato. Or rather patatoes because most families harvest more than one type (out of over 3000 existing in Perú!). Apart from that, the family of Segundo plants corn and every-day vegetables, like carrots or lettuce. They also breed animals – nothing too exotic, just a couple of sheeps, cows, chicken, two huge rabbits, and … a small herd of cuyes i.e guinea pigs (the tiny animal I am holding in the picture has maybe 3-4 months more to go..).

Our task for that day was to start a vegetable garden. With dry Andean ground it turned out to be quite exhausting. With a hoe in my hand and my back hurting I couldn’t help but wonder that out picture of the campo gets distorted, that we loose the link between the land and the physical labour. What comes up to your mind when I say ‘countryside’? Silence? Beauty? Quiet, green, close to nature? All true, but for the campesinos, it is first of all hard work, it means getting your hands dirty with soil and your back acking. In sometimes unfriendly Andean landscape, where every small piece of the land has to be torn out with the bare hands, this connection, so often forgotten, becomes very clear.

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